William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: Potency, Actuality, & Movement

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles.

Previous post.

Last time we only proved one premise, that some things move. Review this first or else you will be lost. This was an observational premise. Of course, some, sensing the coming inescapable conclusion to this argument, suggested with Parmenides that things don’t actually move or change because they only move “relatively”, or whatever. None of these counters are in the least convincing, as we’ll further see. Settle in, we have a lot to do today.

Chapter 13: Arguments in proof of God’s existence

4 This argument contains two propositions that need to be proved: namely that whatever is in motion is moved by another,i and that it is not possible to proceed to infinity in movers and things moved.ii

5 The first of these is proved by the Philosopher in three ways.iii First, thus. If a thing moves itself, it must needs have the principle of its movement in itself, else it would clearly be moved by another.iv Again it must be moved primarily, that is, it must be moved by reason of itself and not by reason of its part, as an animal is moved by the movement of its foot, for in the latter way not the whole but the part would be moved by itself, and one part by another. Again it must be divisible and have parts, since whatever is moved is divisible, as is proved in 6 Phys.[2]v

6 These things being supposed, he argues as follows. That which is stated to be moved by itself is moved primarily. Therefore if one of its parts is at rest, it follows that the whole is at rest. For if, while one part is at rest, another of its parts were in motion, the whole itself would not be moved primarily, but its part which is in motion while another is at rest. Now nothing that is at rest while another is at rest, is moved by itself: for that which is at rest as a result of another thing being at rest must needs be in motion as a result of the other’s motion, and hence it is not moved by itself. Hence that which was stated to be moved by itself, is not moved by itself. Therefore whatever is in motion must needs be moved by another.vi

7 Nor is this argument traversed by the statement that might be made, that supposing a thing moves itself, it is impossible for a part thereof to be at rest, or again by the statement that to be at rest or in motion does not belong to a part except accidentally, as Avicenna quibbles.[3] Because the force of the argument lies in this, that if a thing moves itself primarily and of itself, not by reason of its parts, it follows that its being moved does not depend on some thing; whereas with a divisible thing, being moved, like being, depends on its parts, so that it cannot move itself primarily and of itself.vii Therefore the truth of the conclusion drawn does not require that we suppose as an absolute truth that a part of that which moves itself is at rest, but that this conditional statement be true that if a part were at rest, the whole would be at rest. Which statement can be true even if the antecedent be false, even as this conditional proposition is true: If a man is an ass he is irrational.viii

8 Secondly,[4] he proves it by induction, thus. A thing is not moved by itself if it is moved accidentally, since its motion is occasioned by the motion of something else. Nor again if it is moved by force, as is manifest.ix Nor if it is moved by its nature like those things whose movement proceeds from themselves, such as animals, which clearly are moved by their souls.x Nor if it is moved by nature, as heavy and light things are, since these are moved by their generating cause and by that which removes the obstacle to their movement.xi Now whatsoever things are in motion are moved either per sexii or accidentally; and if per se, either by force or by nature: and if the latter, either by something in them, as in the case of animals, or not by something in them, as in the case of heavy and light bodies. Therefore whatever is in motion is moved by another.

9 Thirdly,[5] he proves his point thus. Nothing is at the same time in act and in potentiality in respect of the same thing. Now whatever is in motion, as such, is in potentiality, because motion is the act of that which is in potentiality, as such.[6] Whereas whatever moves, as such, is in act, for nothing acts except in so far as it is in act. Therefore nothing is both mover and moved in respect of the same movement. Hence nothing moves itself.xiii

10 We must observe, however, that Plato,[7] who asserted that every mover is moved, employed the term movement in a more general sense than Aristotle. For Aristotle took movement in its strict sense, for the act of a thing that is in potentiality as such, in which sense it applies only to divisible things and bodies, as is proved in 6 Phys.[8] Whereas according to Plato that which moves itself is not a body; for he took movement for any operation, so that to understand or to think is a kind of movement, to which manner of speaking Aristotle alludes in 3 De Anima.[9] In this sense, then, he said that the first mover moves itself, in as much as it understands, desires and loves itself. This, in a certain respect, is not in contradiction with the arguments of Aristotle; for it makes no difference whether with Plato we come to a first mover that moves itself, or with Aristotle to something first which is altogether immovable.xiv

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iYou, dear reader, are potentially in Cleveland. Unless you’re not actually there, you are not actually there, but you potentially could be. Right? Now what could bring you there? Well, many things. A car, your feet, a plane. Unless you are dead, there is no logically necessary reason you couldn’t (sometime) be there. Point is this: if you are now here and later in Cleveland, some actual thing or things caused you to be there. It could not have been the potential of you being in Cleveland that caused you to be there.

In front of us is a blank canvas. It is potentially a painting of a horse. If it becomes such, some actual thing caused it to be. That it was potentially a picture of a horse could not be the cause. That is, the potential is not and cannot be a cause. Some actual thing or things was the cause.

A block of wood that is here may potentially be there, but to get there some actual thing must cause it to move. The potential that is there cannot be a cause. And so on.

We need these observations for background.

iiOnly the first premise today. This premise is handled later. As promised, slow going.

iiiWe only do this first proof today.

ivAn animal can move itself, as the next premise demonstrates. But pay attention to what it means when an animal moves itself. A rock, for instance, or a molecule of oxygen in the atmosphere must be moved by something actual.

vHere is Aristotle on this crucial subject (from Aquinas’s footnote):

Further, everything that changes must be divisible. For since every change is from something to something, and when a thing is at the goal of its change it is no longer changing, and when both it itself and all its parts are at the starting-point of its change it is not changing (for that which is in whole and in part in an unvarying condition is not in a state of change); it follows, therefore, that part of that which is changing must be at the starting-point and part at the goal: for as a whole it cannot be in both or in neither. (Here by ‘goal of change’ I mean that which comes first in the process of change: e.g. in a process of change from white the goal in question will be grey, not black: for it is not necessary that that that which is changing should be at either of the extremes.) It is evident, therefore, that everything that changes must be divisible.

Thus divisible also means extended in space. Even photons, which haven’t any mass, are extended waves. They are not particles of no, or absolutely zero, size.

viIn other words, in those creatures capable of self-locomotion parts of them are being moved by other parts, as when you walk. Do not forget we are interested in the parts which are moving themselves, and how and why they move. Re-read the example given in the previous post. This is absolutely necessary to understand. We are at stick-moving-the-stone example, where your arm is moved by muscles are moved by cells are moved by chemicals are moved by individual atoms are moved by electrons and protons are moved by quarks are moved by strings (or whatever) are moved, ultimately, by an unmoved (and unmovable) mover all now, at this instant.

viiWhat might “a thing moves itself primarily and of itself, not by reason of its parts” mean? If a thing could move itself not by its parts, but primarily, it would be like—and this is a weak and fictional analogy—a psychic remaining still and concentrating his mental “powers” so that his body flies through the air. But of course, that would still involve the movement many physical things (physical forces must come into play to interact with the body to shift it) and of the mental powers themselves, from a quiescent to active state, so it doesn’t ultimately work (see below). The point Aquinas is saying is that nothing can move primarily. Something must set off (and sustain) every motion or change. And, as above, this something must be something actual and not potential.

viiiZing! Ha ha ha! The great man himself with a hilarious pun.

ixThese are self-evident.

xThomas does not mean to invoke the psychic example, but by soul he means, if you like, by consciousness. Anyway, if the soul moves its object, then another has moved that object.

xiThat this premise is outdated doesn’t change the proof. A light thing is moved by (say) the wind, and not primarily; or it is moved accidentally or by a force, etc.

xiiPer se, i.e. by virtue of itself; accidentally, here by one part pushing another, or the whole being pushed by something exterior, as in you in a TSA groping line at the airport.

xiiiIf you are moving from A to B, it is only because you are potentially in or at B that you can move. If it is impossible—and not just unlikely, however unlikely—then you are not potentially in or at B. And since potentiality cannot be a cause, it must be act, or something actual, which is driving the movement. The key to this argument is “Therefore nothing is both mover and moved in respect of the same movement.” Understand that, and you have it made. All three parts are necessary: the mover, that which is moved, and this here and now movement.

xivIsn’t that pretty? Exciting, too, because our task is not only to prove God’s existence, but, having done so, to show what we can about God’s nature. This is a kind of first step in that direction. Here, don’t forget that Aristotle and Plato do not mean just physical movement from A to B, but change of any kind; Plato includes changes in, if you like, thinking, or willing; Aristotle does not. The psychic analogy might be welcomed by Plato but not Aristotle. Our intellects are not material, and therefore not divisible or extended.

Again, it is an act which must change something in A but which is potentially in B to B. It will turn out that God is, in Aristotle’s and Thomas’s terms, pure act or actuality itself, with no potentiality (this was not proved today). This is another reason to thoroughly grasp the difference between act and potential. We’ve only done a bare outline. For the terrific introduction in modern language, see Ed Feser’s new Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction. Note: I’ll be reviewing this book soon.

All that was proved today was whatever is in motion is moved by another. Every scientist accepts this premise. In this sense, today’s arguments were scientific proof. This premise is something upon which all science relies. Its implications are, of course, deeper than science, but it encompasses the motivating force behind science. No scientist says, “This went/changed from A to B for no reason whatsoever.”

Don’t forget we have one more premise in the first way (of proof of God’s existence). Then we have a whole second way.

[2] [Physics] Ch. iv.

[3] 2 Suffic. i.

[4] 8 Phys. iv

[5] 8 Phys. v. 8.

[6] 3 Phys. i. 6.

[7] Phoedrus xxiv. (D.).

[8] L.c.

[9] Ch. vii.

47 Comments

  1. whatever is in motion is moved by another

    All things that happen seems to have a cause but that is an assumption which was NOT proved today. Merely stated in a lot of words.

    Granted, it seems reasonable given what we think we know with our limited experience but never having seen one doesn’t prove uncaused events can’t exist. If you don’t know the cause of an event, you can’t rule out that it may have had NO cause although a hidden cause may be the first guess

  2. “Thus divisible also means extended in space. Even photons, which haven’t any mass, are extended waves. They are not particles of no, or absolutely zero, size.”

    This is the classical view. The very fact that you called them photons means that you consider them to be particles of no internal structure. The wave nature is then a probability distribution.

    “All that was proved today was whatever is in motion is moved by another. Every scientist accepts this premise.”

    Do they? What about the spin of an electron or a photon? The problem with this whole approach is that it seeks to extrapolate a classical world view, and a crude version at that, all the way to the transcendent. Since the classical world view is incorrect, where does that leave us? You have always warned, Briggs, about the dangers of extrapolating to infinity. I believe that we are seeing this here.

  3. Sander van der Wal

    June 29, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    A photon doesn’t have a size.

  4. Sander van der Wal

    June 29, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    The wave function of a photon describes the probability you will measure it at a particular point in space. But is doesn’t mean that the photon is a bit spread out in space.

  5. Aquinas wasn’t aware of quantum mechanics.

  6. We got into the Prime Mover thing in the comments last time because it was clear that’s where you were heading. Why “reason” who have to instantiate movement, I don’t see, and why there would even have to be a Prime Mover, I don’t see either. You are trying to “prove” through philosophy (a meandering, long, dead-end, though scenic, road) things that we can not scientifically address, but that we could if we keep looking – scientifically. God is just a made-up answer, and an answer that serves no scientific purpose.

    I do not find the Prime Mover argument anything but conjectural anthropocentric mythology. Not convinced.

    JMJ

  7. Ye Olde Statisician

    June 29, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    whatever is in motion is moved by another
    All things that happen seems to have a cause but that is an assumption which was NOT proved today.

    The proof from motion is not the proof from the ordering of efficient causes, the belief in magical causeless effects notwithstanding.

    The statement quod omne motum movetur ab alio is best translated by the English progressive tense, which Latin lacks:
    Everything that is changing is being changed by another.
    “Motum” is the perfective passive participle of a verb: “movere,” which has the sense of “that which has the property of having been set in motion.”
    Motus is a Latin translation of the original Greek kinêsis, which refers to any change from being potentially X to being actually X while the change is taking place.
    Hence: an apple ripening from green to red is in motion (in kinêsis) while it is ripening.
    The thing to remember is that the whole potency (dynamis)→motion (kinêsis)→actuality (entelechia) thingie was part of a refutation of Parmenides motionless universe. They are answers to questions we have forgotten were ever asked. Something does not come from nothing; it comes from its potential. This potential (dynamic) is something Real in the object.

    The skin of the apple contains a chemical called anthocyanin, whose form is shown schematically here: http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2013/03/whats-matter-with-matter.html. When activated by light in the 3,600 to 4,500 Ã… range it absorbs the near-ultraviolet, violet, blue and green regions of the spectrum, thus reflecting red.

    That is, the apple is moved from green to red by the action of sunlight, which “contains” redness in an eminent sense.

    This usage is preserved in physics. The apple clinging to the branch above Newton’s head has “potential” energy but while it is actually falling it has “kinetic” energy. Another example comes from quantum mechanics, where the reduction of potency to act is called in modern lingo “the collapse of the wave function,” as when Schroedinger’s cat is reduced from potentially alive or dead to actually alive or dead by the act of observation (standard model).

    There is a nice explanation of kinêsis here: https://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/433/KinesisLecture.pdf
    and an article on the very topic of this post, the first premise of the first way, here:
    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUieN3dGVkhNTi1SQUU/edit

  8. Sander van der Wal

    June 29, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    I wouldn’t put too much faith in Schrödingers Cat. Schrödinger’s intent was to show that the idea that a particle did not actually exist until it is observed is rubbish. The Cat is meant to show that that particular interpretation is not logical. Unfortunately, he failed: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schrödinger's_cat

  9. YOS,

    Where exactly does this god enter into the equations?

  10. “Where exactly does this god enter into the equations?”

    So if your lost keys aren’t under the street light, they don’t exist?

    Not really an answer, I know, but it makes a point.

  11. Ye Olde Statisician

    June 29, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Where exactly does this god enter into the equations?
    a) Plotinus, Shankara, Maimonides, and the rest distinguished between God, which was a transcendent entity grounding existence, and gods, which were immanent beings who themselves were just other created things. The Chrisitian invention of capital letters simply facilitates this distinction, which would otherwise require context.
    b) What equations?
    c) Don’t get impatient. Just because you can’t see the final destination while standing in your front doorway doesn’t mean there isn’t a path. Right now, Briggs is only up to the “doorway,” i.e., the major premise of the first argument; viz., that anything that is changing is being changed by another. Criticism should be directed toward this; e.g.,:
    i) There is nothing in motion; motion is an illusion, as shown by…
    ii) Some things actualize their own potencies, as shown by…
    iii) or something.
    d) Nothing moves itself because motion is the reduction from potency to act, and that which potentially exists does not (yet) actually exist, and something which does not (yet) actually exist isn’t capable of diddly-squat.

    Keep in mind that in modern terms, Aristotelian “rest” is called an “equilibrium state.” A body in rectilinear inertial motion requires an outside force to change its vector. Ditto for a moon in orbit, or a Belusov reaction in oscillation. Potential functions and attractor basins make perfect Aristotelian sense, since a system governed by a potential function will move by nature toward its attractor basin.

  12. “Everything that is changing is being changed by another.”

    A fine distinction from “every event has a cause” if it is a distinction at all.

    the belief in magical causeless effects notwithstanding.

    Not to mention the “magical” application of adjectives to objections and statements regarding that which has not been proven.

  13. Brandon Gates

    June 29, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    Briggs,

    … whatever is in motion is moved by another …

    I’m willing to overlook that Aquinas did not speak in terms of:

    First law: When viewed in an inertial reference frame, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force.

    Second law: F = ma. The vector sum of the forces F on an object is equal to the mass m of that object multiplied by the acceleration vector a of the object.

    Third law: When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.

    Do we have a problem here and/or further down the line if we substitute motion with acceleration?

    E = mc2

    That can of potential worms has already been opened by others here, but I’m content to stick with Newton for now and see what that does.

  14. Sander van der Wal

    June 30, 2014 at 12:17 am

    Radioactive decay. Uranium turning into lead. That just happens.

  15. Even if you assume their must be an uncaused causer, and prime maker and mover that was simply always there, why on Earth would you assume to know what the heck that is? From the Bible??? Really???

    This is not science in any way at all. This is just snake-oil dressed up like a 1787 Chateau d’Yquem. An arrangement of erudite circumlocution saying nothing.

    JMJ

  16. “… conjectural anthropocentric mythology.”

    Ah yes, the view from “nowhere”. Always good for a laugh. Multiverses and String Theory are not “science in any way at all” either, even assuming that science has answers which aren’t question-begging.

  17. Sander van der Wal

    June 30, 2014 at 6:05 am

    @YOS

    “i) There is nothing in motion; motion is an illusion, as shown by…”

    Actually, with motion as the concept is used nowadays, I believe we have a new answer. All motion is relative, except the for the motion of photons (and some other quantum particles. Photons always move at exactly the same speed.

    Now, imagine two observers sitting on both sides of the race track where Achilles and the Tortoise are racing. By making the track wide compared to the speed of light (lets say a couple of light months wide), the two observers will see very different things happening. The one on the side of Achilles will see Achilles start much earlier than the Tortoise. Make the track wide enough and the first observer will see Achilles pass the Tortoise before the the Tortoise will start to move.

    The observer on the other side will see the Tortoise start much earlier than Achilles, giving it a bigger head start.

    This is by assuming that the start signal will be given in such a way that Achilles and the Tortoise will see the start signal at the same time. Which is equivalent to the referee seeing Achilles and the Tortoise start at the same time in the referee’s time frame.

    I would love to see Parmenides talk himself out of this conundrum.

  18. Jersey McJones:

    “An arrangement of erudite circumlocution saying nothing.”

    Erase the “erudite” and we have a fairly good description of your comment.

  19. “….whatever is in motion is moved by another”

    This is not true. “Motion” occurs in both directions equally. It is a perceptual bias (and error) to state that one “caused” the other.

    Who caused the home run? The batter or the pitcher?

  20. Ye Olde Statisician

    June 30, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    First law: When viewed in an inertial reference frame, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force.

    First law: When viewed in an inertial reference frame, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless moved by another.

    Or a Jean Buridan de Bethune put it in the 14th century:

    Possem enit dici quod quando deus creavit sphaeras coelestes, ipse incepit movere unamquamque earum sicut voluit; et tunc ab impetus quam dedit eis, moventur adhuc, quia ille impetus non corrumpitur nec diminuitur, cum non habent resistentiam.
    — Jean Buridan de Bethune, “Quaestiones super caelo et mundo”
    “It could be said that when God created the heavenly spheres, each began to move as it hath pleased him; and then from the impetus [momentum] which he gave to them, they are moving yet, because the impetus [momentum] is neither corrupted nor diminished, unless it encounters a resistance [contrary force].”

    However, it is unclear how this applies to ripening apples, maturing tiger cubs, or other forms of motion. And since Aristotle considered equilibrium “motions” as being “at rest”, it is unclear whether this is even an objection.

    Basically, in local motion, inertia (lit. “laziness”) is resistance to a change, and “change,” not “local motion” is what Aristotle et al. meant by kinesis/motus. In order to change the path, an outside force is required. That is, it must be moved by another.

    Further details here:
    http://faculty.fordham.edu/klima/SMLM/PSMLM10/PSMLM10.pdf
    http://thomism.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/moved-by-another-and-self-motion-in-nature/

    Radioactive decay. Uranium turning into lead. That just happens.

    A seven on a pair of dice. That just happens. A man brained by a hammer as he walks by some scaffolding. That just happens. There may be a problem here with Late Modern notions of causation, which they confuse with predictability of exact time and place. There is no way from Newton’s model to predict when a particular apple will fall from a particular tree. That doesn’t mean it “just happens.” How does “it just happens” differ in any meaningful way from “Goddidit” or “The Fates decreed…”?

    But radioactive decay is an expression of the weak force. The strong force and the weak force are forces that cause change in the body. Here’s the intro from Lecture 3.9 of “Philosophy of Nature” by William A. Wallace:

    Now let us return again to Fig. 3.4, “A Powers Model of an Inorganic Nature.” The cases of chemical change we have discussed thus far involve the two forces shown on the left side of the model, the electromagnetic force and the gravitational force. Elemental transformations also take place through the two forces shown on the right side of the model, the weak force and the strong force. To illustrate how these forces act, we propose a different example of substantial generation, that, namely, of natural radioactivity. The case we shall discuss is the production of the element lead, which occurs in nature, from the radioactive breakdown of uranium, an element that also occurs in nature.
    http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/c02003.htm#9

    How could a physicist bring up radioactive decay of uranium into lead in the context of an Aristo-Thomist philosophy of nature without seeing it as a fatal objection to the principle of movement? Possibly because it isn’t.

    Even if you assume their [sic] must be an uncaused causer, and prime maker and mover that was simply always there…

    It’s not an assumption; it’s a conclusion. Briggs hasn’t reached that point yet. He’s still on the major premise of the syllogism. Be patient.

    …why on Earth would you assume to know what the heck that [unmoved mover] is?

    From further theorems to be proven after the first. Be patient. There is a great deal more to come.

    From the Bible???

    No. Aristotle did not have a Bible. Nor was Thomas a modern-day sola scriptura Protestant.

    This is not science in any way at all.

    Well, in the Latin it is — scientia — but it is not natural science any more than are political science or military science. What Thomas is doing in Contra gentiles is not natural science, which reasons inductively from empirical evidences to falsifiable theories. He is deducing from the fact of motion, not trying to explain how motion unfolds in the natural world. Metaphysics is what stands above physics. It deals with concept like motion, cause, being, etc. that must be true for any coherent physics to exist. Natural scientists, after all, cannot explain motion qua motion. They simply assume that motion exists and try to explain how it works.

    I believe we have a new answer. All motion is relative

    It’s not new. Witelo described the principle of relativity in his 13th century Perspectiva, stated by Oresme in the 14th century in this wise:

    The reason for this is that these two bodies, a and b, are continually changing their dispositions with respect to each other in the same manner throughout when a is moved and b is at rest as they were conversely when b is moved and a is at rest. This is apparent in the fourth book of The Perspective of Witelo, [who says] that one can perceive movement only in such a way as one perceives one body to be differently disposed in comparison with another. I say, then, that if the upper of the two parts of the cosmos mentioned above should today move with a diurnal movements while the upper (that is, the heavens) should not, we could not perceive this change in any way, but everything would seem the same today and tomorrow.
    On the heavens, II.25.3

    Hence, if one were affixed to a photon, the rest of the universe would appear to receded at light speed.

    Who caused the home run? The batter or the pitcher?

    The batter is the immediate principle by which the baseball changed its motion from a trajectory directed toward the catcher’s glove to one directed toward the left field upper deck. Whether this constitutes a “home run” or simply a “fly ball” is another issue entirely, as there are other causal factors in play. But change requires a changer.

  21. Briggs

    June 30, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    YOS,

    You remind me. Feser has an article on Inertia out in that new edited volume of his. I have it. You already do a good job summarizing, but if I can find the time, I’ll put up a few juicy quotes.

  22. Ye Olde Statisician

    June 30, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    if I can find the time, I’ll put up a few juicy quotes.

    But you would have to overcome your own inertia to get a move on.

  23. Brandon Gates

    June 30, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    YOS,

    But you would have to overcome your own inertia to get a move on.

    A universal truth I’m afraid. Thanks for your answers to my questions on Newton. Will digest and file for future reference.

  24. Sander van der Wal

    July 1, 2014 at 11:53 am

    @YOS

    Regarding radiactive decay, a uranium atom is a state from which it is possible to decay. Going to the new state is a change, the atom even turns into a different kind of element. But there is no cause for the change in state itself. At least, it isn’t there in the theory.

    Compare this to the classic image of a ball on top of a hill in a tiny depression. As long as nobody kicks the ball, it stays there. So the kick is the cause. In radioactive decay, there is no kick.

    Regarding Achilles and the Tortoise on their wide racing track, the point is that the two different observers see events happening in different points in time. And that happens because lightspeed is finite. If they move closer to the track, and Achilles and the Tortoise are willing to race a number of times, they will see that the closer they get, the smaller the difference in time becomes. They can swap places and see events unfolding in a very different order. I am quite curious how Parmenides would try to save his “all motion is imaginary” theory is observations like these would have been available to the Greeks.

    For starters, he could start by saying that the fact that events were seen in different orders was perfect proof for his theory. But if they would notice that the differences were related to the distances of the observers that would not have helped Parmenides. Because , why would there be this strict relation between distance and timing differences if motion was imaginary?

  25. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 1, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Regarding radiactive decay, a uranium atom is a state from which it is possible to decay. Going to the new state is a change, the atom even turns into a different kind of element. But there is no cause for the change in state itself. At least, it isn’t there in the theory.

    So you’re saying the theory is deficient? Not surprising, given that we’ve only known about the phenomenon for a little over a hundred years or so. At best you can say that the specific time and place of an emission cannot be predicted by the theory. But then, Newton’s theory cannot predict the specific time and place that a given body will fall, either. That doesn’t stop us from saying that the cause of the body’s fall is the gravitational force. It shouldn’t stop us from saying that the cause of the beta particle’s emission is the weak force. The weak force is thought to be caused by the emission or absorption of gauge bosons, as when a down quark changes to an up quark. But as this involves us in “particles” whose ontological status is still up in the air, we may be content to say, “We don’t know,” rather than to claim that things happen without being caused.

  26. With everything in motion (and nothing at rest) it cannot be reasoned that there is a Prime Mover that set everything in “motion”.

    Because of this, it is necessary to construct such ideas as “….the immediate principle…..” The word “immediate” is a biased statement and purely one of perspective. It is Subjective.

    The ball changed the motion of the bat and the bat changed the motion of the ball. That’s all that one can objectively state. No amount of reasoning from the observation will get you to a “Prime Mover”.

    Furthermore, one did not cause the behavior of the other. Each behaved according to it’s nature. Each entity is a “Prime Mover”. Had the ball been a wiffle ball, the observation would have been different. So to had the bat been plastic. Or had the wind been blowing harder, or the sunlight been in the batters eyes, etc.

    Cause and effect are epistemological – not ontological or metaphysical. But this does not mean that cause and effect is not objective.

  27. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 1, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    With everything in motion (and nothing at rest) it cannot be reasoned that there is a Prime Mover that set everything in “motion”.

    Quite the contrary. The reasoning starts with the premise that “some things in the world are in motion (i.e., ‘changing’).” It is hardly an objection to claim that it is more than ‘some.’
    You are thinking of Prime Mover as if it were First Domino in a line of toppling dominoes. Prime Mover not only sets everything in motion (otherwise how is everything in motion), but sustains all of them in motion. But be patient, we haven’t reached that point yet. We are still on the premise that “Whatever is changing is being changed by something else.”

    The word “immediate” is a biased statement and purely one of perspective. It is Subjective.

    Dang. And here we thought that being an immediate cause (as distinct from a root cause, so important in industrial problem-solving) was far more objective than causeless events and the like.

    The ball changed the motion of the bat and the bat changed the motion of the ball.

    Sure. So what? There are a multitude of pathways of actualization. It is easier to follow a single one. Besides, metaphysics isn’t interested in the physics of motion, but in the logical consequences of the fact of motion.

    No amount of reasoning from the observation will get you to a “Prime Mover”.

    You’re begging the question. That is the very thing under proof in this series.

    Furthermore, one did not cause the behavior of the other. Each behaved according to it’s nature.

    We don’t accept mystical woo-woo, in which swinging bats do not cause fly balls, but a bat simply swings “according to its nature” and a ball simply flies “according to its nature.” That is the occasionalism of al-Ghazali’s philosophy, which was one of the things that smothered the birth of science in the House of Submission.

    Each entity is a “Prime Mover”.

    You do not understand what a Prime Mover is. Why is it that fear of what may lie at the end of a syllogism leads so many people to deny the bleeding obvious: that the swinging bat caused the fly ball, that humans (and other animals) have consciousness, or will, or self. Whenever causation is thought to lead to You-know-who, suddenly the universe becomes random; but when randomness seems to leave an opening for free will, suddenly everything is deterministic. It’s an intellectual game of Whack-a-Mole.

  28. The universe was’t caused, it happened, just like hurricanes happen.

  29. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 1, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    The universe … happened, just like hurricanes happen.
    The universe was caused by water evaporation condensing in the atmosphere and releasing latent heat? Who knew.

    Water evaporates from the warm ocean surface, absorbing heat energy. When there is little wind shear, this heat is not released in tropical thunderstorms, but instead builds up, causing low pressure to form. The low pressure causes wind to spiral inward toward the center of the low, which builds through a positive feedback cycle: The spiraling winds help evaporate even more water vapor from the ocean, spiraling inward toward the center, feeding more showers and thunderstorms, and warming the upper atmosphere still more. But meteorologists seem to have the causation of hurricanes well in hand.

  30. We can’t predict hurricanes.

  31. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 1, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    We can’t predict hurricanes.
    So what? It has been pointed out several times in these discussions that causation is not predictability. That we can’t predict some thing does not make it uncaused. You can’t predict when that apple will fall from this tree, but that doesn’t mean gravity is not the cause of its fall. You can’t predict what the next throw of the dice will be, but that does not mean the result is not caused by the geometry and numbering of the dice. You cannot predict who or when or where a man will be brained by a falling hammer….

    Consider the man who is struck on the head by a hammer while walking to his lunch.
    Everything about his perambulation is designed, which is to say intended. He is hungry – it is that time of day for it – and he habitually takes his lunch at a café two blocks distant from his workplace. It is a sunny day, so he wears no cap. None of this is by chance.
    Likewise, the workman atop the roof of the building half a block along. He too ceases work for lunch and, habitually, leaves his tools unattended. Because of the geometric arrangement of his tools, his foot nudges the hammer as he arises, the which, in obedience to the inexorable laws of action and reaction, nudges back and so begins to slide. The god Newton teases it down the slanted roof tiles until it tips into his clutches and is pulled to the street below, even as the unfortunate lunch bound is passing beneath.
    “Ah, what ill luck,” say the street sweepers as they cleanse the blood and brains from the duroplast walkway. Yet everything that has happened is the consequence of the actors’ intentions or of nature’s laws – and some say those laws are but the intentions of a greater Actor.
    We call it “chance” and we marvel because our superstitions desire that concatenation be as meaningful as causality. The man was brained by a hammer! It must mean something. There must be a connection! And so poor Fate is made the scapegoat of intersecting world-lines. Having become all tangled up in the threads, we incline to blame the weaver.
    — On the Razor’s Edge

    Hope this helps.

  32. What makes the cause of a universe different from the cause of a hurricane?

  33. Sander van der Wal

    July 1, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    @YOS

    No. As far as I can see, the transition is uncaused. It is either that, or the examples used earlier make no sense.

  34. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 1, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    What makes the cause of a universe different from the cause of a hurricane?

    Two things:
    1. The universe is the set of all things that physically exist. U={X|X exists physically}. It exists iff any one thing exists. Thus, the cause of the universe is X, where X is a thing. But U itself is not a thing.
    2. The universe is the mereological sum of all things, but a mereological sum of things is not a thing. That which is not a thing does not need an efficient cause. Example: the MoonHans is the mereological sum of the moon and Hans. Now the Moon has a cause, and Hans has a cause — perhaps several in both cases — but there is no cause of the MoonHans because it is not a thing. It’s like asking for the reason why there was a landslide in Gansu and a two-headed calf was born in Wisconsin.

    As far as I can see, the transition is uncaused.

    So there is no such thing as the weak force or gauge bosons? Who knew.
    The transition from U238 to Th234 is caused by the emission of an alpha particle from the uranium nucleus, and alpha decay is caused by the repulsive electric forces among the protons.

  35. Brandon Gates

    July 2, 2014 at 12:31 am

    YOS,

    Whenever causation is thought to lead to You-know-who, suddenly the universe becomes random; but when randomness seems to leave an opening for free will, suddenly everything is deterministic. It’s an intellectual game of Whack-a-Mole.

    Very well played, sir. That was brilliant. It’s part of the human condition as far as I can tell. Agnostics only have this problem when we say something other than “I don’t know”. Which does save me a lot of trouble sleeping, right up until I start thinking, “well darn, where did all this stuff come from?” again …..

  36. Universes materialise because of the Laws of Nature, for the same reason, uranium decays, hurricanes and earthquakes occur, and people are social animals, I hereby grant your god-of-the-gaps.

  37. Sander van der Wal

    July 2, 2014 at 12:56 am

    @YOS

    No. What I am saying is that because you cannot predict *when* a particular Uranium atom will turn into Lead according to electroweak theory, the fact that it turned into Lead at twelve o’clock yesterday (which has been measured) is uncaused.

    And that makes it a competitor of the Prime Mover theory.

    Of course, I could be wrong about what electroweak theory states about the timing of specific events. And it is also quite possible that there is a better theory than electroweak theory about radioactive decay. But that is at this point irrelevant for the argument I am making. Which is that there is a competing theory for the Prime Mover theory, which is at least as good as St Thomas’ one regarding causality, and which is *much* better at providing an understanding about the actual universe.

  38. Sander van der Wal

    July 2, 2014 at 3:49 am

    “” Whenever causation is thought to lead to You-know-who, suddenly the universe becomes random; but when randomness seems to leave an opening for free will, suddenly everything is deterministic. It’s an intellectual game of Whack-a-Mole.”

    Very well played, sir. That was brilliant. It’s part of the human condition as far as I can tell. Agnostics only have this problem when we say something other than “I don’t know”. Which does save me a lot of trouble sleeping, right up until I start thinking, “well darn, where did all this stuff come from?” again …..”

    It is of course possible that the proponents of determinism do not have Free Will themselves. After all, a man knows his own mind best.

    And they are in fact rather predictable….

  39. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 2, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Universes materialise because of the Laws of Nature
    The laws of what “nature.” There has to be a universe in order for there to be natural laws governing it. Unless you believe that the mathematical equations are somehow “word-up” even if there is nothing for them to describe. But then you are claiming that “in the beginning was the word.”

  40. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 2, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    @YOS: What I am saying is that because you cannot predict *when* a particular Uranium atom will turn into Lead according to electroweak theory, the fact that it turned into Lead at twelve o’clock yesterday (which has been measured) is uncaused.

    No. That is precisely the confusion. To be unpredictable does not mean to be uncaused. It simply does not follow. You cannot predict when or where an ponderable body will fall, but that does not mean it is uncaused by gravitational forces. You cannot predict who or when or where a particular person will die, but that does not mean they die from no cause.
    (Of course, here we are talking about actualizing potentials, which is not the same thing as efficient causation anyway.)

    a competing theory … which is *much* better at providing an understanding about the actual universe.

    This is the second misunderstanding. Ol’ Tom was not trying for an understanding of the physical universe. Not all human acts of the intellect are attempts to do natural science.

  41. YOS, you missed a bit:
    I grant you your god-of-the-gaps:
    God = “everything we don’t know”

  42. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 2, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Sorry, Hans. I don’t have a God-of-the-Gaps. There are no gaps, except in our knowledge. If as we suppose, God looked on all that he had created and saw that it was good, then at the very least creation needs no duct tape and baling wire to hold it together.

  43. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 2, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Addendum to Hans. This is not something new:
    “We marvel at something when, seeing an effect, we do not know the cause. And since one and the same cause is at times known to certain people and not to others, it happens that some marvel and some do not.”
    St. Thomas Aquinas, Contra gentiles

  44. Ye Olde,
    Aristotle’s belief that essence is existential led him to believe that there is an “order” to the Universe.

    The Universe is neither ordered nor dis-ordered – it just is. Man’s mind is the source of the order that we perceive. Man’s mind draws boundaries. (And no, I’m not a Berkeley idealist).

    Essence is epistemological and contextual.

  45. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 3, 2014 at 9:27 am

    JimS: The Universe is neither ordered nor dis-ordered – it just is. Man’s mind is the source of the order that we perceive.

    AlbertE: “One might (indeed one should) expect that the world evidenced itself as lawful only so far as we grasp it in an orderly fashion. This would be a sort of order like the alphabetical order of words. On the other hand, the kind of order created, for example, by Newton’s gravitational theory is of a very different character. Even if the axioms of the theory are posited by man, the success of such a procedure supposes in the objective world a high degree of order, which we are in no way entitled to expect a priori.”
    — Letter to M. Solovine

    Tough choice. Jim or Albert. Hmm. Which one knows more about the universe? Must investigate.

    And yes: Berkeley’s idealism.

  46. YOS,

    (I finally got hold of a real keyboard)

    Let me explain why god-the-creator-of the-universe is a god-of-the-gaps.

    Back in the old days, we didn’t know electricity, and we explained the origin of lightning by the god-of-the-thunder. Now we know that lightning is electricity and we can even use it for our own benefit. Hurricanes emerge when the physical circumstances are right and no modern theologist (even a catholic one) would invoke special creation for the emergence (“cause”) of hurricanes. It’s straightforward meteorology, and the only miracle occurs when a baby is saved alive out of the rubble.

    Why then, would the emergence of our universe (the only universe we are able to observe) need a special act of creation? Our universe materialised just like a hurricane materialises: because the physics is “just right”, to quote the goldilocks principle.

    Who then “made” this physics? Nobody. Physics exists eternally, like mathematics and ethics. It isn’t made, it is discovered.

  47. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 3, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    no modern theologist (even a catholic one) would invoke special creation for the emergence (“cause”) of hurricanes.

    Indeed, neither would a medieval theologian. As Bishop Nicholas d’Oresme put it in the 14th cent., “I propose here… to show the causes of some effects which seem to be miracles and to show that the effects occur naturally… There is no reason to take recourse to the heavens [astrology], the last refuge of the weak, or to demons, or to our glorious God, as if he would produce these effects directly… ” — De causa mirabilium
    It was those selfsame Catholic theologians who devised the doctrine of secondary causation: that the natures of physical bodies could act directly upon one another. So you are merely the heir of a thousand years of Catholic natural philosophy.

    Why then, would the emergence of our universe (the only universe we are able to observe) need a special act of creation?

    Because creation just is the coming into being from not being. All scientific processes deal with motion: the actualization of a potency by something already actual. This always involves a trans-form-ation: matter is changed from one form to another. But in coming-to-be there is nothing physical on the left side of the arrow. Creation is not a special kind of transformation/change.

    Our universe materialised just like a hurricane materialises: because the physics is “just right”, to quote the goldilocks principle.

    The physics of what? If no thing existed, how can there be a physics? You are simply saying “a miracle happened” but a naturalistic fairy story is not less irrational for being natural.

    Who then “made” this physics? Nobody. Physics exists eternally, like mathematics and ethics. It isn’t made, it is discovered.

    So, you claim that ‘in the beginning was the word’? There is no gravity without ponderable matter. There is no electrical charge without electrons. You may take the Platonic view that these ideal forms existed from eternity in the mind of God, but it seems a strange point of view for you to take.

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